The barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, said Alasdair MacIntyre, they have already been governing us for quite some time. About the best we can hope for at this stage of history, he wrote in his influential book After Virtue, is “the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.”
“We are waiting not for a Godot,” concluded MacIntyre, “but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”
My friend Rod Dreher has built upon this insight by suggesting Christians consider the “Benedict Option”: communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life.
While the Benedict Option is somewhat appealing, I’ve always found as an evangelical a sufficient reason for rejecting that approach: my people tried it; it didn’t work.